Oliver Roths in Harvest Homes liquidation inquiry, loses Supreme Court battle against Sergei Sergienko

VINDICATED: Russian-born cryptocurrency millionaire Sergei Sergienko won a Supreme Court case for compensation against AXL Financial, a company controlled by convicted fraudster Oliver Roths.
VINDICATED: Russian-born cryptocurrency millionaire Sergei Sergienko won a Supreme Court case for compensation against AXL Financial, a company controlled by convicted fraudster Oliver Roths.

WHAT does NSW Hunter Valley construction company Harvest Homes, a Russian cryptocurrency millionaire and a Sydney concreter with a suitcase full with $1.8 million in cash have in common?

They all wish they had never heard of a man named Oliver Roths.

Some know him as Oliver Roths, others as Oliver Banovec or Oliver Kwoka and more still as Duke Oliver Roths.

The 44-year-old, who officially changed his name from Oliver Banovec in 2017 following criminal convictions for fraud and perjury, has had a rough month amid two court cases into his failed business dealings.

Last week at public examinations at the Federal Court into the collapse of Newcastle builder Harvest Homes, Roths struggled to explain how he managed to rent a luxury house in North Sydney for $3400 a week when he declared to the tax office last year he earned $45,000.

He told the court that he was able to afford the five-bedroom property at Northbridge because a company he is a director and controller of, AXL Financial, was a co-tenant on the lease.

A day later, AXL Financial lost a Supreme Court battle brought by Sydney-based cryptocurrency millionaire Sergei Sergienko and was ordered to hand over a property on Sydney Harbour estimated to be worth more than $4 million.

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Justice Hammerschlag said AXL Financial also owed companies associated with Sydney concreter Daniel Klisovic compensation over "murky" dealings to purchase the same parcel of land situated at Killarney Heights on the foreshore of Middle Harbour that once operated as the home of the Mosman Rowing Club.

The court heard that Mr Klisovic borrowed $1.8 million in cash from an associate who provided the money in lots of $600,000 stuffed in three canvas bags.

The money was then transferred to a suitcase and Kilsovic said he gave it to Ian 'Rocky' Chalmers, an associate of Roths, so it could be provided to AXL Financial to purchase the property.

Chalmers, a former Macquarie bank director, was released from Sydney's Long Bay prison in 2014 after serving time for conspiring to import up to $15 million worth of cocaine into Australia.

According to Roths, the pair who were in jail at the same time, are involved in several businesses together.

The court heard that Chalmers took the $1.8 million in cash in a suitcase from Mr Kilsovic, who said he believed it would be used to buy the Killarney Heights property, but Chalmers claims he later gave the cash back.

"There is also no receipt for this transaction," Justice Hammerschlag said in his decision handed down last week. "Chalmers says that it was recorded in his diary, which was stolen from his garage. I am not persuaded that these events happened."

Surrounded by bushland, the property at the centre of the dispute, situated on Killarney Point with views across to Castle Cove, is alleged to have been used as a drug lab before it was purchased for $1.5 million by AXL Financial in December 2017. In April 2016, it was torched and almost gutted in a second attempt in a week to burn it down.

UNRELIABLE: Convicted fraudster Oliver Roths called in sick at the Harvest Homes liquidation inquiry last week and the first day of the Supreme Court hearings against Mr Sergienko last month. Picture: Johnathan Carroll

UNRELIABLE: Convicted fraudster Oliver Roths called in sick at the Harvest Homes liquidation inquiry last week and the first day of the Supreme Court hearings against Mr Sergienko last month. Picture: Johnathan Carroll

The triangular property is surrounded on two sides by a 30m-wide foreshore reservation that is Crown land and by national park on the third side.

Attempting to weed out the truth, Justice Hammerschlag expressed his dismay at the "somewhat exceptional" proceedings pointing out that many of the witnesses were prepared "to say anything" to assist their cause.

"A party asserting, and seeking to rely upon, the terms of an alleged undocumented commercial transaction said to involve the transfer of very large sums of cash, ought not to be taken by surprise when he, she or it fails to persuade the court of its existence," he said.

"Various transactions which underlie the dispute involve claims of unreceipted delivery of millions of dollars of cash in bags and suitcases, participation by a convicted criminal and a flagrant breach of trust."

The final charge was one of many levelled against Roths and his companies during the seven-day hearing in Sydney earlier this month.

Amid so many conflicting stories, Justice Hammerschlag ruled that he couldn't determine where the money came from for AXL Financial to purchase the property for $1.5 million in 2017.

The court was provided with documents detailing loans provided to Mr Klisovac from Agility Finance and Tal Silberman's Moshav Financial, the same companies involved in loans to Harvest Homes via Roths, but Justice Hammerschlag said the evidence did not allow a finding to be made with any confidence as to the source of the money used to buy the property.

He ruled that AXL Financial was acting as trustee for Mr Kilsovic's DK Excavations and Concreting Pty Ltd when it bought the property and there was a "clear breach of trust" by AXL Financial when it offered the land to Mr Sergienko to settle another debt.

The tangled web resulted in Mr Sergienko being granted the land after he lost $1.58 million in a failed shares transaction that involved Roths and Chalmers, and Mr Kilsovic being told his company was also entitled to "equitable compensation".

A further hearing will be held to determine how much AXL Financial owes DK Excavations and Concreting Pty Ltd.

Roths' tangled web of business dealings that regularly land in court is deliberately complicated, but he appears to have met his match in Mr Sergienko, a self-made millionaire with the funds to pursue court action.

In 2007, at age 25, Mr Sergienko launched a labour hire company that within three years was turning over $6 million, boosting him into the ranks of the BRW "Fast Starters" lists. Last week he launched an unlisted crypto fund with Australian venture capital investor and entrepreneur Mark Carnegie.

BUSINESS PARTNER: Court hears former Macquarie banker Ian Chalmers was given $1.8 million in cash in a suitcase for a property deal linked to Roths.

BUSINESS PARTNER: Court hears former Macquarie banker Ian Chalmers was given $1.8 million in cash in a suitcase for a property deal linked to Roths.

He told the Newcastle Herald this week while he would recover his losses, he knew of others who dealt with Roths that had not been so fortunate.

"Even though I'm pleased and happy with the outcome, it pains me that if I did not have $1 million to chase this scum he would have got away with it," Mr Sergienko said.

"I had people calling me and cheering me on, there are other victims who don't have the funds to fight. The more we pull on the string, the more comes out. It gives everyone else more reassurance to see that he is not Teflon. The movement is mounting."

Mr Sergienko met the fraudster through Roths' long-time associate Chalmers. Mr Sergienko enlisted Chalmers to help him buy a publicly listed company as part of a cryptocurrency deal and paid $1.58 million to secure shares.

But the deal never got off the ground and Mr Sergienko launched court action against AXL Financial to recover his money.

Clearly unimpressed with Roths throughout the hearing, Justice Hammerschlag detailed how he called in sick on the first day and "somewhat predictably" breached the court's pre-trial discovery orders to provide documents.

Roths also called in sick on the first day he was due to give evidence at the Harvest Homes public examination last month, claiming he had an infected tooth, and did not produce under summons the required documents requested by liquidator Thomas Dawson, of DCL Advisory.

From the outside, Roths looks like any other well-to-do professional living in one of Sydney's wealthiest suburbs. But his polished exterior and designer suits hide an underbelly of deceit.

A former eastern suburbs rich kid, he was sentenced in 2010 to seven years' jail for fraudulently using $500,000 of an investor's money. He was found guilty of five counts of fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of destroying documents relevant to an Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) investigation into four companies he controlled, which ended up in liquidation.

Court documents reveal Roths, then known as Banovec, was running a mortgage broking business, Capital Trust, and took money from an investor, who said he lent $1.3 million to Roths or his company at interest rates of up to 50 per cent expecting the funds would be on-lent to borrowers and secured with mortgages. But the five clients identified in paperwork supplied by Roths never applied for any loans.

Roths was disqualified from managing corporations for five years from the date of his release from prison.

In a separate Federal Court case in 2019, relating to the same company Mr Sergienko hoped to buy shares in, Justice Simon Steward was scathing of Roths for failing to disclose his true identity.

"I would not have made freezing orders on an ex parte basis on the word of a man who had a conviction for perjury," he said.

"This should have been disclosed to me at the hearing of the ex parte application. The failure to do so was a serious breach of the duty of candour owed to the court."

Know more? Donna.page@newcastleherald.com.au

This story The Russian, the fraudster and a suitcase of cash first appeared on Newcastle Herald.